So…what have I been up to lately? Well, I ran a 5K, saw the Pixies (!!!), connected with a present-day ambient musician whose NYC indie band in 2005 recorded one of my favorite songs ever. I also have to welcome my friend Katie to Philly! And, of course, there is new music to share.
Alison and I went to see Ben Folds last night at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby, Pa. And, as usual, Ben was awesome and played for a little more than two hours.
Ben usually has really great opening acts. I saw Tegan and Sara open for him a few years ago at The College of New Jersey in Ewing, N.J., just weeks before their song “Walking with a Ghost” (later covered by The White Stripes) from their 2004 CD “So Jealous” became a hit on adult album alternative (AAA) and college radio stations. When we saw Ben earlier this year in Montclair, N.J., the fantastic Australian singer-songwriter Kate Miller-Heidke — who went on to contribute backing vocals on Ben’s new collaboration with author-lyricist Nick Hornby, “Lonely Avenue” — was the opening act.
For this tour, Ben has enlisted the three-piece Lady Danville as the warm-up act and they were quite entertaining. And bonus points go to percussionist/vocalist Matthew Frankel for his use of a cajón (see video of Lady Danville in action at the bottom of this post).
Regarding Ben’s set, it’s amazing how deep his catalog is at this point of his career. He didn’t even touch a Ben Folds Five track until he played “Mess” as his 18th song of the night.
Here is Ben Folds’ set list from last night:
Sleazy (Ke$ha cover)
Still Fighting It
Rock This Bitch (Tower Theater)
Levi Johnston’s Blues
The Last Polka
Zak and Sara
You Don’t Know Me
Rockin’ the Suburbs
Not the Same
Chopsticks (Liz Phair cover)
Wow! It’s been a long time between posts here on the ol’ blog, but I’m taking the time to put a quick one up here to talk about yet another personal Ben Folds live show experience for me.
This time, Alison and I went to see Ben Folds perform solo — just “Ben Folds and a Piano” (as the tour is known) — at the Wellmont Theatre in Montclair, NJ. As I found out during this show, Ben Folds apparently lived in Upper Montclair for a brief period several years ago, so there was some reminiscing on Ben’s part and then a weird moment when somebody from our row — we were three rows from the stage — started having a conversation with Ben about somebody he knew from his short time living in the area.
It was my first time at the Wellmont and I must say it’s a nice venue…and the sound was great from the third row. We bought ourselves a couple of drinks in the lobby and I was concerned we’d have to down them before heading to our seats, but the orchestra seating area actually has at least a couple of bars toward the back and the seats are all individual chairs on a hard floor so I guess they’re not concerned with spillage like more traditional theater venues.
Anyway, onto the show itself…the opener was a fantastic Australian singer-songwriter named Kate Miller-Heidke, who performed with her musical partner/husband Keir Nuttall on acoustic guitar. KMH, as I’ll call her, showed off her amazing voice in her first number, “Our Song,” a beautiful track from her 2008 CD Curiouser (iTunes link). But she followed that up with very intelligent, witty and profanity-laced pop songs that were catchy, funny and amazing. The best moment was when KMH moved over to piano and performed her “Are You F*cking Kidding Me?” — which really should have the parenthetical subtitle (“The Facebook Song”). It is a cleverly written track describing her reaction to receiving a Facebook friend request from an ex. Fortunately, for those of us in the U.S., the American release of Curiouser includes a live version of the song as a bonus track. If you like beautifully sung, intelligent, mature pop music that ranges from heart-wrenching (“The Last Day on Earth”) to hysterical (“God’s Gift to Women”), then definitely check out KMH.
As for Ben Folds…well, he was brilliant as usual. Unfortunately, I spent most of the first song getting up and down to make room for people moving in and out of our row because some freakin’ kids sitting in the row behind us — without tickets for those seats — thought they could just direct people who had those tickets to sit in the row in front of them — our row — without there being any consequences. Of course, when people showed up to sit in those seats as Ben started playing, all hell broke loose in our row. At one point, I just yelled out “This is ridiculous.” One couple responded that it wasn’t their fault because the kids were in their seats in the row behind us. I replied loudly, “Don’t worry. I know (and turning to the row behind us)…it’s all their fault because they don’t know how to read a freakin’ ticket!” At that point, the kids took their sense of entitlement and finally went to their proper seats and order was restored.
From that point on, though, the show was great…Ben talked about seeing a video by Insane Clown Posse that was going to stick with him forever. He then tried to play his song, “Sentimental Guy,” but kept cracking up at the thought of the Insane Clown Posse video and couldn’t even get through the first verse of the song. After three or four attempts, he just moved on to another song (near the end of the show, Ben finally got around to getting through “Sentimental Guy”).
Unfortunately, Ben didn’t play “Zak and Sara,” which is a personal favorite (I also found this odd because one of the t-shirts being sold at the merch table featured an illustration inspired by “Zak and Sara”). However, he did play old favorites like “Kate”, “Emaline” (after someone yelled it out from the audience), “Narcolepsy”, “One Angry Dwarf” and the always-amazing “Philosophy”…so that made up for it.
Oh, actually, there was one more encounter with the “Entitlement Kids”…right after the show ended and people started heading to the exits, a couple of the kids who were sitting in the wrong seats came back to reunite with their friends who did have tickets for seats in the row behind us. One girl decided to walk on the seats and spill some of her drink on me as she went by. I was all set to lecture the kids, but was led out of the theater by Alison to avoid any conflict.
But it was a great night of music overall. Ben was his typical outstanding self and KMH was a fantastic musical discovery.
Ben Folds performs “Fair” in Dallas, Texas, during an October 2008 performance (link).
Because Ben Folds was playing at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia last night, my girlfriend, Alison, and I basically celebrated Valentine’s Day on Friday night. We exchanged gifts, she made me dinner and I gave her flowers…you know…all that stuff.
But we had made reservations for an early evening dinner Saturday at Copper Bistro in the Northern Liberties section of Philly since it is close to where the Electric Factory is. We get to the front door of the restaurant and there is a greeter outside…and nobody in the restaurant. After asking if we had reservations, he informs us that a problem with the restaurant’s oven hood meant the place was full of smoke. However, the owner was good friends with the owner of a small art gallery across the street, so the Copper Bistro staff moved all the tables and chairs over to the gallery, which served as dining room for the night. It was very resourceful and it was nice to see area businesses working together, especially in these times.
And the food was pretty good overall. The desserts were a bit of a let down, but the coffee was good and that’s all that matters to me after a meal.
Anyway, after dinner, we headed to the Electric Factory. Now, I am not one of those people at concerts who are constantly taking pictures — mostly because my photos usually turn out awful. But I like to take a few just to post on the ol’ blog. You may notice, however, that there is no photo to go along with this blog entry. I will explain that in a bit.
Knowing that I have received some pretty serious pat-downs upon entering the Electric Factory, I gave Alison my camera and my Flip camcorder to put in the bottom of her purse. In the past, it always seemed that women breezed through the security check while I was getting scrutinized for the various contact lens solutions I always carry around with me. This time, it was different…they didn’t even touch me, but they were going through all the women’s bags. Fortunately, Alison got through without the staff confiscating either camera.
However, they must have confiscated a lot because an announcement was made just before the night’s opening act, Miniature Tigers, took the stage that told people where to pick up their cameras before leaving.
So I wasn’t even going to attempt to take out my digital camera or the Flip. But I figured it wouldn’t hurt if I attempted to get one or two pics of Ben with my Blackberry.
Ben Folds and his band — now a five-musician unit — hit the stage around 10 p.m. and opened with “Fair” (see video of October 2008 performance above) from the Ben Folds Five CD “Whatever and Ever Amen”…a song I love that I haven’t heard Ben play live in quite some time. About a minute into the song, I noticed that everybody around me had their camera out taking pictures, including a few who were using flashes. Because I know any pic I take with the Blackberry is going to be crappy without using the flash, I figured I would try to take the photo and try to blend in with the 50 people or so around me who are taking pictures.
I take the pic and almost immediately, an Electric Factory staff member comes up behind me and tells me to delete the photo and to put the phone away…and that I would be thrown out if caught taking another photo.
So that was the end of my picture taking. But what bothered me was that, for the remainder of the night, there were people in my immediate vicinity who were obviously raising their cameras up to take photos and video. BUT NOTHING WAS SAID TO THEM. And since the LCD screens on these cameras were so freakin’ noticeable, I could see these photos and videos were coming out 50 times better than the piece of crap blurry pic that existed on my Blackberry for about 15 seconds. AGAIN, NOTHING WAS SAID TO ANY OF THESE PEOPLE. I think the “camera police” guy busted me and, possibly, the guy to my left, and that was it.
Hopefully, I will eventually find these better pics somewhere on the Interwebs and I will, as Mike Doughty says, gank one to accompany this blog post.
OK…so now that my rant is over about that, how was the show?
First, Miniature Tigers opened with a pretty decent set. I had listened to a couple of their songs on their MySpace page to familiarize myself a bit with them and didn’t really like what I had heard. But they sound much better live. And, even though Miniature Tigers are apparently gaining popularity among the young folks (they will be at South By Southwest next month), I don’t think I’ll be jumping on the bandwagon any time soon…just not my cup of tea.
In between Miniature Tigers and Ben Folds, the all-female Gracenotes a cappella group from West Chester University performed two original songs and then a version of “Fred Jones, Part 2” from Ben’s “Rockin’ the Suburbs” CD, which the group recorded with Ben for an upcoming disc featuring 18 a cappella groups from various colleges, universities and high schools performing songs from both Ben’s solo catalog and those from the Ben Folds Five days.
And, like I said, Ben Folds and his four fellow musicians hit the stage around 10 p.m. and knocked it out of the freakin’ park. Aside from nearly getting tossed out for taking a blurry picture with my Blackberry, this may have been the best show I have seen Ben play…especially with a band. He did an incredible solo show a few years ago in Princeton, N.J., that I hold in high regard. But last night’s show may have topped it.
By my count, he played 26 songs that covered a lot of musical territory. I don’t remember the setlist in sequential order, although I am trying to find an accurate setlist on a couple of the Ben Folds-dedicated forums that are out there. In the meantime, I have put together this list of songs based on what CDs they appeared and which were from the Ben Folds Five days:
BEN FOLDS – WAY TO NORMAL ( 2008 )
You Don’t Know Me
Kylie From Connecticut
Dr. Yang (from the “fake leak” version of the CD)
Bitch Went Nuts (from the “fake leak” version of the CD)
Way to Normal (from the “fake leak” version of the CD)
BEN FOLDS – SONGS FOR SILVERMAN (2005)
BEN FOLDS – ROCKIN THE SUBURBS (2001)
Zak and Sara
The Luckiest (which he dedicated to his wife…contradicting an article published online just two days earlier stating that his fourth marriage, to Fleur, had recently ended)
Not the Same
BEN FOLDS FIVE (in order I remembered what songs were performed):
Alice Childress (with a credit to WXPN for making it an early “hit” for BF5)
Philosophy (including Misirilou and a bit of Theme from Dr. Pyser at the end)
Any Ben Folds show that features “Army,” “Emaline,” “Philosophy,” “Underground” and “Alice Childress” are considered freakin’ sweet by default. “Fair” and “Kate” made it that much better.
4. You Don’t Know Me
5. Annie Waits
6. Alice Childress
7. Way To Normal
8. Lovesick Diagnostician (fake Dr. Yang)
9. Dr. Yang
13. Free Coffee
14. Eddie Walker
17. The Luckiest
18. Kylie From Connecticut
21. Not The Same
23. Bitch Went Nutz
So remember that post about a week ago in which I questioned how good the next Ben Folds CD was going to be based on the single “Hiroshima”? Well, it turns out, Ben put out a leak of “Way to Normal” on various web and torrent sites…but he recorded fake versions of several of the songs (including a title track that doesn’t really exist) and included those on the leaked version of the CD
That being said, “Hiroshima” is a real song…and I’m still not a big fan of it…but it’s not really the first single. It’s kind of a fake first single. The actual first single is the extremely catchy “You Don’t Know Me,” which is a duet with Regina Spektor.
“You Don’t Know Me” – Ben Folds (feat. Regina Spektor)
Anyway, here are videos for “Cologne” and “Hiroshima” from the upcoming CD. A note on the video for “Colonge”: The CD version apparently doesn’t include the piano orchestra intro…and the European music show is obviously fake.
“Cologne” – Ben Folds
“Hiroshima (B-B-B Benny Hit His Head)” – Ben Folds
Well, today marked my first listening to new songs by two of my favorite artists, Ben Folds and Keane.
Ben Folds announced via MySpace the debut of a video for “Hiroshima,” the first single off his upcoming CD, “Way to Normal” (Sept. 30, 2008). The half-assed, stop-motion video is quirky and funny…but the song? Well, I worship Ben Folds…think he’s a genius…I even met him very, very briefly in November 2005. But I’m just not feeling “Hiroshima.” It’s obviously a fleshed-out version of one of Ben’s improvisational pieces during one of his shows…and it will probably be fun to hear peformed live. I just don’t see myself playing it too many times on my iPod.
However, I guess I just expect a level of musicianship from Ben on recorded media…and “Hiroshima” doesn’t really meet that expectation for me. Hopefully, the rest of the new CD reaches higher.
But I still love your music, Ben…and you are still a genius.
On the other hand, Keane’s single for “Spiralling” (although I prefer “Spiraling”) off the upcoming “Perfect Symmetry” CD (Oct. 13, 2008 ) is really entertaining and fun. It’s not groundbreaking and I don’t expect Keane to be. However, the boys managed to retain their sound while also infusing it with dance beats and funk bass that seem to be greatly influenced by (and perhaps featuring samples from) David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance.” Even though this really isn’t the style of music I am into these days, I always seem to find a few pop songs throughout the year that I really enjoy…and “Spiralling” is definitely one of them. I can’t wait to get it on my iPod and play it a few times very loudly with my windows down on a long drive.
I was disappointed with Keane’s previous CD, “Under the Iron Sea,” although “Bad Dream” from that disc is a freakin’ great song. I thought “Sea” was a step back from the brilliance of 2004’s “Hopes and Fears,” which spawned “Somewhere Only We Know,” “Everybody Changes,” and “Bedshaped.”
But “Spiralling” gives me great hope that Keane has taken many steps forward with “Perfect Symmetry.”
Ben Folds put on a show in his Nashville studio last night that was broadcast as a live video webcast on his MySpace site. It was pretty cool…and I found the following video on MySpace that shows a bit of Ben’s performance of “Kate” last night in Nashville.
The countdown has been going on since Monday, Oct. 9, and has featured a full spectrum of musical artists ranging from Mozart to Muddy Waters to Black Sabbath. XPN is the greatest radio station ever and the fact that it played songs from each of these artists speaks of the diversity of music played on the station.
Granted, I don’t think I have ever heard No. 693 Kelly Clarkson on XPN…and probably never will again (and that is a VERY good thing). But what other radio station these days plays “Supper’s Ready” by Genesis (a track that runs more than 20 minutes)? And I can tell you that “Supper’s Ready” was being played on XPN when I got into my car after work a couple of months ago.
Check out the list by clicking the link above…good stuff!